Gold & Silver Daily

Ed's Critical Reads

Jul 24, 2014

Atlantic City’s Credit Rating Cut Two Steps to Junk by Moody’s

The reduction to Ba1 from Baa2 on the city’s $245 million of general-obligation debt reflects a weakened tax base resulting from anticipated casino closings, the New York-based ratings company said today in a statement. The outlook remains negative.

“The downgrade to Ba1 reflects the city’s significantly weakened tax base, revenue-raising ability and broader economic outlook,” analysts Vito Galluccio and Julie Beglin said in the statement. “These result from ongoing casino revenue declines, expected near-term casino closures, and the impact of sizable casino tax appeals, all of which has stemmed from increased competition from casinos in neighboring states.”

Atlantic City lost its regional monopoly as states including Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York legalized casinos or expanded betting to increase tax revenue. Casino revenue in the city has dropped for seven straight years, falling to $2.86 billion last year from a high of $5.07 billion in 2006, according to Bloomberg Industries.

The city’s 11 gambling houses account for almost half its jobs: 5,883 positions in a workforce of 13,500. The Atlantic Club closed in January, putting 1,600 people out of work. The closing of Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s Showboat on Aug. 31 will wipe out 2,133 jobs. Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino said it plans to close Sept. 16, taking away another 1,009. Revel, the $2.4 billion complex that employs 3,106 people, is seeking a buyer in bankruptcy.

This short Bloomberg news item, filed from Trenton, N.J., was posted on their Internet site at 3:20 p.m. Denver time yesterday---and today's first story is courtesy of Howard Wiener.

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Illinois Workforce Shrinks By Largest Margin in State History

In June, Illinois suffered the largest monthly workforce loss in recorded state history.

June’s workforce loss was worse than the worst month of the Great Recession. Overall, 21,700 Illinoisans gave up and left the workforce in June; in September 2008, 17,500 Illinoisans quit the workforce.

This hefty workforce loss has driven state’s unemployment rate down to 7.1% from 7.5%, creating a superficial appearance of improvement. And Gov. Pat Quinn says Illinois needs to “keep the momentum.”

Keeping up this sort of “momentum” would be disastrous.

This news item appeared on the Internet site on Sunday---and it's something I found in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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Jobs Hold Sway Over Yellen and Carney as Central Banks Splinter

Before the Federal Reserve and fellow central banks go to work raising interest rates, they first need others to go to work.

That’s the signal from policy makers worldwide, as even those whose mandates focus on inflation put the health of labor markets at the heart of their decision making. The approach leaves investors bracing for global monetary policies to diverge after the post-crisis embrace of easy money.

Accelerating job creation -- and the hope this will spur wages -- leaves the U.S. central bank and the Bank of England preparing for higher rates by the end of 2015. At the other end of the spectrum, double-digit unemployment in the euro area and stagnant pay in Japan mean stimulus remains the only option.

Nothing has changed, dear reader, as it's still "print or die"---and forget about higher interest rates anytime this year or next.  Even a hint of an imminent interest rate hike would crush the bond market.  This longish Bloomberg article, co-filed from Washington and London, was posted on their Web site at 3:25 a.m. MDT on Wednesday morning---and it's courtesy of West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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The "Gates" Are Closing: SEC Votes Through Money Market Reform

It was nearly five years ago when Zero Hedge first wrote: "This Is The Government: Your Legal Right To Redeem Your Money Market Account Has Been Denied" in which we predicted as part of the ongoing herding of investors away from every other asset class and into stocks, regulation will be implemented to enforce that "money market fund managers will have the option to 'suspend redemptions to allow for the orderly liquidation of fund assets" or in other words implement redemption "gates." The logic: spook participants in the $2.6 trillion money market industry with the prospect of being gated (i.e., having no access to ones funds) and force them to reallocate funds elsewhere.

Moments ago the gates arrived, when following a close 3-2 vote (with republican commissioner Piwowar and democrat Stein dissenting), the SEC adopted new rules designed to curb the risk of investor runs on money market funds, capping the end of a years-long heated debate between regulators and the industry dating to the financial crisis according to Reuters.

Among the changes, funds will have to switch to a floating share price instead of the current $1/share (hence the term breaking the buck). But the key part: "The SEC's rule will require prime money market funds to move from a stable $1 per share net asset value, to a floating NAV. It also will let fund boards lower redemption "gates" and fees in times of market stress."

This longish piece appeared on the Zero Hedge Web site at 1:18 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon---and I thank Dr. Dave Janda for sending it around.

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Tale of the Tapes: IRS Head Confirms Investigators Have Found Backup Tapes in Lerner Probe

The head of the IRS confirmed Wednesday that investigators looking into missing emails from ex-agency official Lois Lerner have found and are reviewing "backup tapes" -- despite earlier IRS claims that the tapes had been recycled. 

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before a House oversight subcommittee, stressed that he does not know "how they found them" or "whether there's anything on them or not." But he said the inspector general's office advised him the investigators are reviewing tapes to see if they contain any "recoverable" material. 

The revelation is significant because the IRS claimed, when the agency first told Congress about the missing emails, that backup tapes "no longer exist because they have been recycled." 

It is unclear whether the tapes in I.G. custody contain any Lerner emails, but Koskinen said investigators are now checking.

Tapes in this day and age?  Would they be cassette, 8-track, or reel-to-reel?  Just asking.  This Fox News item showed up on their Web site yesterday sometime---and I thank reader M.A. for sending it our way.

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Super bear Marc Faber: Here Are the Markets I Like

Investment guru Marc Faber, famed for his gloomy views on financial markets, took some time out from being the voice of doom on Wednesday to highlight areas of the market that he actually liked.

On CNBC Asia's Squawk Box, the author of the Gloom, Boom and Doom Report singled out the agriculture sector, Chinese and Hong Kong stocks and precious metals as places he thought investors should put their money into.

"In general I like plantation companies – I like everything to do with agriculture," said Faber, who is also widely known as Dr. Doom.

This 3:54-minute video clip was posted on the CNBC Web site late yesterday morning Hong Kong time---and I thank reader Ken Hurt for sharing it with us.

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UK Hastens Negotiations for Currency-Rigging Settlement

Talks to reach the first settlement in the currency-rigging probe are accelerating, with Britain's markets regulator preparing to reach a deal with a group of banks this year, people with knowledge of the talks said.

The Financial Conduct Authority is in talks with banks including Barclays Plc, Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and UBS AG, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc may also be part of the group settlement, one of the people said.

The FCA is trying to fast-track the process and may levy any fines in the coming months, three of the people said. The watchdog is seeking to keep the scope of the deal narrow to speed up the settlement, two of the people said.

The talks are still continuing and an agreement may stretch into next year, the people added.

This article showed up on the Bloomberg Web site at 5 p.m. MDT yesterday afternoon, but it was posted there earlier than that because I received it in a GATA release at 12:37 p.m. MDT.

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Defying UK, France to Proceed with Warships Sale to Russia

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius responded with a strong dose of sarcasm to British criticism of France’s planned sale of two warships to Russia, saying the UK should put its own house in order before criticising others.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that Paris’s plan to press ahead with the €1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) order of two French warships following the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine would be “unthinkable” in Britain.

“The English, in particular, were very pleasant so to speak, saying, 'We would never do that'. But I told my dear British friends, let’s talk about the financial sector,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told TF1 television after returning from a European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

“I am led to believe that there are quite a few Russian oligarchs in London,” he said.

When asked if that meant Britain should take care of its own business first, Fabius said: “Exactly.”

This is a big "UP YOURS!" with a French twist.  It was posted on the Internet site yesterday sometime---and it's the first offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Europe Braced for Any Gas Crisis as Russia Sanctions Escalate

Europe has enough spare capacity in liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet a large part of the region’s needs if Russia retaliates against the latest EU sanctions by restricting gas supplies.

The showdown with Russian president Vladimir Putin comes at moment of surging global supplies of LNG, which can be diverted to European markets and reduce the Kremlin’s political leverage. The price of LNG in Asia has crashed from $20 to $11 per million British thermal unit (BTU) since February.

The pan-EU group Gas Infrastructure Europe said the network of LNG terminals in Britain and the Continent is currently operating at just 20% of its full capacity. It could in theory boost flows by 160bn cubic metres (BCM), if there is available gas.

This is more than Russia’s entire shipments, which reached 155 BCM last year. The European network of pipelines does not cover every region and would leave pockets in eastern Europe without supply.

What b.s.!!!  This is wall-to-wall disinformation, but Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is always one to stoop to the occasion when it does arise---and when his master calls.  This commentary was posted on the Internet site at 10:20 p.m. BST on Tuesday evening.

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Black Boxes of Crashed Malaysian Plane to Be Deciphered in 2 Days

It will take about two days to retrieve and decipher data from flight recorders of the Malaysian airliner that crashed in eastern Ukraine last week killing nearly 300 people, a spokesman for the UK Department for Transport told reporters Wednesday.

Air Accidents Investigation Branch experts in Farnborough, Hampshire, will study the flight data recorders, known commonly as black boxes. The spokesman said that the process might take about two days, depending on their condition.

“Experts received flight recorders at the lab in Farnborough, Hampshire. Experts will attempt to extract data from the recorders at the request of Dutch authorities, which are conducting the investigation. Based on the damage [to black boxes] the process can take about two days,” the spokesman said.

He stressed that he was only referring to the extraction of data from the flight recorders and its transfer to the Netherlands, not about the conclusions about the cause of the crash. One of the flight recorders stored technical parameters of the plane, while the other recorded the sounds on board.

This RIA Novosti news item, filed from London, was posted on their Internet site at 3:53 p.m. yesterday afternoon Moscow time, or 7:53 a.m. New York time.

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Crashed MH17 Flight "Was 300 Miles Off Typical Course"

Robert Mark, a commercial pilot who edits Aviation International News Safety magazine, said that most Malaysia Airlines flights from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur normally travelled along a route significantly further south than the plane which crashed.

Malaysia Airlines has insisted its plane travelled on an "approved route" used by many other carriers.

But Mr Mark said: "I can only tell you as a commercial pilot myself that if we had been routed that way, with what's been going on in the Ukraine and the Russian border over the last few weeks and months, I would never have accepted that route.

"I went into the FlightAware system, which we all use these days to see where airplanes started and where they tracked, and I looked back at the last two weeks' worth of MH17 flights, which was this one---And the flight today tracked very, very much further north into the Ukraine than the other previous flights did...there were MH17 versions that were 300 miles south of where this one was."

This story appeared in The Telegraph a week ago, but it's still worth your time.  I thank Harry Grant for sending it along at midnight MDT last night.

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The Saker: The Most Pathetic Case of Backpedaling I Have Seen in My Life

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

The officials briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week's air disaster, which killed 298 people.

The plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the intelligence officials said, citing intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although they described a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels, which they say has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner.

Have you counted the "caveat words"?  I counted 15 (depending on what you want to include).  Notice that they consider the Ukie missile as "implausible" but that they never explain why this would be implausible.  And they admit relying in part on social media and Ukie government info?  How absolutely utterly pathetic.  I mean - I feel sorry for them.  For any self-respecting intelligence official to admit such things is to commit a seppuku of your professional pride.  It's admitting that you are an amateur and a drooling moron.  And here is the deal - I very much doubt that these men are amateurs or morons.  So, yet again, they were back-stabbed by imbecile politicians like Obama and Power who just are not used to consulting with their own specialist before flapping their lips and never mind if they make an entire intelligence community look like cretins.

But of course the big news here is this: the U.S. fairy tale about Putin the terrorist is falling down in flames.  Yet again the Neocons by their sheer arrogance, hubris and boundless stupidity manged to lie their way into a corner from which there is no exit.  Not that the U.S. had much street-cred anyway, not after Colin Powell's dishwasher powder in a vial at the UNSC.  But, of course, there is bad, very bad, even worse and outright terrible.  But now the U.S. has reached the "terminal" stage.  The AngloZionists sure had this one coming.

And I couldn't agree more!  This must-read commentary showed up on the Web site yesterday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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Pepe Escobar: A Chessboard Drenched in Blood

"The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Everyone remembers the Downing Street Memo, which unveiled the Bush/Blair "policy" in the run-up to the 2003 bombing/invasion/occupation of Iraq. The "policy" was to get rid of Saddam Hussein via a lightning war. The justification was "terrorism" and (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which had "disappeared", mounted in trucks, deep into Syria. Forget about intelligence and facts.

The tragedy of MH17 - turned, incidentally, into a WMD - might be seen as a warped rerun of imperial policy in Iraq. No need for a memo this time. The "policy" of the Empire of Chaos is clear, and multi-pronged; diversify the "pivot to Asia" by establishing a beachhead in Ukraine to sabotage trade between Europe and Russia; expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to Ukraine; break the Russia-China strategic partnership; prevent by all means the trade/economic integration of Eurasia, from the Russia-Germany partnership to the New Silk Roads converging from China to the Ruhr; keep Europe under US hegemony.

The key reason why Russian President Vladimir Putin did not "invade" Eastern Ukraine - as much as he's been enticed to by Washington/NATO - to stop a U.S. military adviser-facilitated running slaughter of civilians is that he does not want to antagonize the European Union, Russia's top trading partner.

Crucially, Washington's intervention in Kosovo invoking R2P - Responsibility to Protect - was justified at the time for exactly the same reasons a Russian intervention in Donetsk and Luhansk could be totally justified now. Except that Moscow won't do it - because the Kremlin is playing a very long game.

Here's another must read for you today.  It was posted on the Asia Times Internet site yesterday---and it's another contribution from Roy Stephens.

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David McWilliams: Deadly Game of Human Chess

When seen from the Russian perspective, Ukraine is just another example of the gradual but definitive encroachment of the West into all things Russian. Russia and Ukraine are not different cultures. They are part of the same broader Russian/Slavic family. Our narrative is that the Russians are happy to keep Ukraine unstable and that what happened to the Malaysian airliner was the risk Russia was running by arming the separatists with sophisticated weapons.

Seen from the Russian side, it isn’t the Russians who are doing the destabilising but the Americans.

For them, the Americans arming and financially supporting an opposition in Ukraine would be like the Scottish Nationalists being financed by Russia. How do you think London and Washington would react to that? How do you think they’d react to the idea of a Russian puppet running an independent Scottish state from Edinburgh?

This is how close Ukraine is to Russia.

Now when you think about it in those terms, do you think Putin will back down and do what the West wants him to do?

This commentary by David McWilliams also falls into the must-read category---and it was posted on his Web site on Monday.  I thank reader M.A. for bringing this article to our attention.

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Why Putin Isn't Afraid of Europe

Why can't Europe's leaders bring themselves to impose tough sanctions on Russia after the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet disaster? One explanation is that economic ties to Russia, a major supplier of energy, trump the moral imperative to punish President Vladimir Putin for his support of separatists in Ukraine.

A look at trade data for selected European countries offers an indication of the incentives in play. The Netherlands, which had 193 citizens aboard Flight MH17, is among the most connected: Russia accounted for about 6.4% of its imports in the 12 months through February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Germany, the most politically powerful country in Europe, is roughly three times more tied to Russia than the U.S. or the U.K., which have been much more aggressive in pushing sanctions.

Europe's economic ties to Russia are much stronger than they were when Putin came to power. Back in February 1999, soon after he took over from former President Boris Yeltsin, Russia's share of German exports and imports was less than half what it is today. Apparently, building new pipelines to Europe has served Russia's geopolitical interests well.

This opinion piece by Mark Whitehouse showed up on the Bloomberg Internet site at 1:50 p.m. EDT on Wednesday afternoon---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Putin Recalls State Duma From Vacation, "Planning Something" on Ukraine Situation

In a somewhat disconcerting move, Russian President Vladimir Putin has recalled The State Duma from a planned vacation to participate in an unscheduled meeting because of the situation in eastern Ukraine. As Ukrinform reports, sources confirm "Something is being planned, because many deputies come, probably for a quorum." Rumors are spreading that Putin is set to issue Kiev an ultimatum over recognizing separatists or face military intervention.

Given that Poroshenko has demanded the separatists be labeled "terrorists" under international law, we suspect this is one demand they cannot fulfill... and of course, Ukraine is claiming that the 2 fighter jets shot down this morning were shot down by and from Russia... sure, with the whole world watching, Putin would do that?

This very interesting news item appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 11:46 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and I thank Bill Busser for finding this for us.

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Opening Remarks of Vladimir Putin at the Russian Security Council Meeting

Note: normally the meetings of the Russian Security Council are held behind closed doors.  This time, however, the press was allowed in just to record the beginning of the opening remarks of Vladimir Putin.  Then the press was asked to leave.  Clearly, this is intended as a message to the Russian people.  I have bolded out the part which appear the most important to me. - The Sakar

Good afternoon, colleagues.

Today we will consider the fundamental issues of maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. We all understand how many political, ethnic, legal, social, economic and other aspects this topic encompasses.

Sovereignty and territorial integrity are fundamental values, as I have already said. We are referring to the maintenance of the independence and unity of our state, to the reliable protection of our territory, our constitutional system and to the timely neutralization of internal and external threats, of which there are quite a few in the world today. I should make it clear from the start that, obviously, there is no direct military threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. Primarily, the strategic balance of forces in the world guarantees this.

We, on our part, strictly comply with the norms of international law and with our commitments to our partners, and we expect other countries, unions of states and military-political alliances to do the same, while Russia is fortunately not a member of any alliance. This is also a guarantee of our sovereignty.

These longish remarks by Vladimir Putin were posted on the website yesterday sometime---and worth reading if you have the time.  It's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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China’s Terrifying Debt Ratios Poised to Breeze Past US Levels

The China-US sorpasso is looming. I do not mean the much-exaggerated moment when China’s GDP will overtake America's GDP – which may not happen in the lifetime of anybody reading this blog post – as China slows to more pedestrian growth rates (an objective of premier Li Keqiang.)

The sorpasso may instead be the ominous moment when China’s debt ratios overtake the arch-debtor itself.

I had presumed that this inflection point was still a very long way off, but a new report from Stephen Green at Standard Chartered argues that China’s aggregate debt level has reached 251% of GDP, as of June.

This is up 20 percentage points of GDP since late 2013. The total is much higher than normal estimates, though it tallies with what I have heard privately from officials at the IMF and the BIS.

This Ambrose-Evans Pritchard blog appeared on The Telegraph's Web site on Tuesday sometime---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Four King World News Blogs

1. Michael Pento: "This is the Timeline For the Terrifying Endgame of Destruction"  2. Frank K: "Switzerland Has Exported a Shocking Amount of Gold to Asia"  3. Investors Intelligence: "Here is the Chart That Has the Central Planners Worried"  4. William Kaye: "Is This the Real Reason Why Malaysian MH17 Was Shot Down?"

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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A Revolving Door Farce: CFTC Commissioner Bails to Head Regulator's Biggest Opponent

There is no better way to describe what the recently departed CFTC commissioner Scott O'Malia just did when he bailed from the commodity watchdog to become the new head of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, aka ISDA, the biggest banking group that has constantly opposed every intervention and attempt to regulate the swaps market by the CFTC since the Lehman crisis, than an epic farce.

For those who are unaware ISDA is a global OTC derivative lobby group, counting the world's largest investment banks among its members, and has frequently fought regulatory efforts to reform the market after the financial crisis. ISDA itself was exposed as a complete joke during the European crisis when due to the overhang of avoiding Europe's insolvent reality, it made CDS protection obsolete as protection from sovereign restructurings and credit events, in the process crushing one of the key ways to hedge for credit event risk.

Even an otherwise impartial Reuters appears outraged by this blatant and painfully clear example of government capture of "public servants" by those who have dangle carrots of money in exchange for lobby (and future employment promise) favors, and thus set the rules, courtesy of people like O'Malia.

If there was any more proof needed that the CFTC is a compromised and crooked organization, here it is.  O'Malia handed in his notice on Tuesday---and look where he is 24 hours later.  This Zero Hedge piece was posted on their Web site at 11:29 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning---and I thank Phil Barlett for sending it our way.

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US Gold ETF Delivers First Physical Bullion Coins; Holdings Grow

Merk Gold Trust, a bullion-backed exchange-traded fund that allows its shares to be redeemed for physical gold, said on Wednesday it has made its first delivery in dozens of U.S. gold coins to an investor.

The ETF, launched by Palo Alto, California-based Merk Funds in May to offer a liquid trading product with the benefits of physical gold bullion, has accumulated 40,000 ounces in two months even in a bearish gold market.

The fund, trading on the NYSE Arca platform with the ticker OUNZ, owns less than 1 percent of gold held by SPDR Gold Shares , the world's biggest gold ETF. However, many participants are warming to the idea that the product could bridge the gap between the physical and paper gold markets.

This very interesting Reuters piece, filed from New York, showed up on their Internet site at 3:46 p.m. EDT on Wednesday afternoon.  I found it embedded in a GATA release late last night MDT.

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Smoking Out Indian Gold, Central Bank Relaxes Loan Rules

In a major relief, the Reserve Bank of India has relaxed the limit of loan that banks can sanction against the pledging of gold ornaments and jewellery, and where the end use of the loan is not for agricultural purposes.

The move is expected to protect the interest of the customers who can continue to opt for gold loans based on merits of the case, rather than rely on the loan to value ratio. The RBI has however retained the loan to value ratio at 75% of the value of gold.

The apex bank has left it to individual banks to decide on a lending cap. On December 30, the apex bank had restricted loans with a cap of $1,661 (Rs 100,000) against the pledge of gold ornaments and jewellery.

With many individuals pledging household gold ornaments to avail of personal loans, the aim is also to smoke out gold lying within homes and bank lockers across the country, said analysts.

This news item, filed from Mumbai, put in an appearance on the Internet site on Wednesday sometime---and it's worth skimming.

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Kalgoorlie's Golden Hotel Prices

Car dealers, doctors and now a hotel in Western Australia's Kalgoorlie are accepting payments of gold.

Weary travelers will be able to pay to rest their head at a hotel in the wild west Goldfields town of Kalgoorlie with gold.

Rydges Kalgoorlie Resort and Spa general manager Nicholas Parkinson-Bates said while the idea to allow people to pay for a room with the precious metal was inspired by the annual Diggers and Dealers mining conference in August, he was keen to extend the payment method for life.

This short gold-related news item was posted on The West Australian Web site yesterday at 6:16 p.m. local time 'down under'---and it found a home over at the Internet site.  I thank reader Michael Donovan for sliding it into my inbox yesterday morning.

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Jul 23, 2014

IRS Seeks Help Destroying Another 3,200 Hard Drives

Days after IRS officials said in a sworn statement that former top agency employee Lois G. Lerner’s computer memory had been wiped clean, the agency put out word to contractors Monday that it needs help to destroy at least another 3,200 hard drives.

The Internal Revenue Service solicitation for “media destruction” reflects an otherwise routine job to protect sensitive taxpayer information, but it was made while the agency’s record destruction practices remain under a sharp congressional spotlight.

Congressional investigators of the IRS targeting of conservative groups have been hampered by the unexplained destruction of emails and other records of Ms. Lerner, the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division and a central figure in the scandal.

The loss of Ms. Lerner’s hard drive also raised broader questions about why the tax agency never reported the missing records to the National Archives and Records Administration, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Today's first story is from The Washington Times.  It was posted there on Monday sometime---and I thank reader M.A. for sending it.

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Wall Street Cut From Guest List for Jackson Hole Fed Meeting

Wall Street doesn’t lead to Jackson Hole this year.

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City prepares to host next month’s annual gathering of central bankers in Wyoming, seasoned Fed watchers from the financial markets, including the chief U.S. economists of the biggest American banks, aren’t being invited, according to past participants.

Among those who didn’t make the guest list: Vincent Reinhart of Morgan Stanley, Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Bank of America Corp.’s Ethan Harris. Onetime conference regulars, including Mickey Levy of Blenheim Capital Management LLC and Meredith Whitney of Kenbelle Capital LP, also lose out.

They’ll miss a conference that has foreshadowed some of the Fed’s biggest monetary-policy shifts since the financial crisis, and a keynote speech by Chair Janet Yellen. Perhaps as importantly, they also will be deprived of the opportunity to mingle with policy chiefs over meals and on mountain trails.

This longish Bloomberg piece, filed from London, was posted on their Internet site at 4:27 a.m. Denver time on Tuesday morning---and it's the first offering of the day from West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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Have Central Banks Been Breaking the Law?

The best way to destroy the capitalist system, the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin is reputed to have said, is to debauch the currency. The world’s major central banks have certainly been having a fair old go at it. In the six years since the financial crisis first broke, they’ve been printing money like there is no tomorrow.

Fortunately, they have not yet managed to bring down the free market system. On the other hand, they have succeeded in putting a rocket under asset prices and, in so doing, they have greatly exaggerated the wealth divide.

In a number of cases, including the U.S. and the U.K., they have also significantly assisted governments in financing burgeoning fiscal deficits. To the extent that quantitative easing (QE) has had any effect at all, it is asset prices and governments that have been the prime beneficiaries.

Where has Jeremy been all these years?  This is what central banking is all about.  This commentary was posted on the Web site at 5:55 p.m. BST on their Monday afternoon---and I found the story embedded in a GATA release.  The link is here.

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Draghi Cedes Euro Control to Yellen on Fed Rate Wagers

Mario Draghi’s ambitions to weaken the euro are at the mercy of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

The U.S. central bank chief sent the euro sliding below $1.35 last week for the first time since February when she said U.S. interest rates may rise sooner than investors expect. Her European Central Bank peer is having less impact: Draghi’s unprecedented decision to drop a key interest rate to below zero last month pushed the shared currency up 0.2% before Yellen’s speech. The euro is also losing its link with the continent’s bond market, as its correlation to the yield spreads of Italy, Spain and Portugal approaches zero.

Dealers in euro-dollar, the world’s most-traded currency pair, say they’re increasingly influenced by the U.S. because they’ve assimilated the interest-rate cuts Draghi unveiled and concluded he has no further surprises in store. The prospect of a Fed rate boost is also deemed more important than the conflict in the Gaza Strip and international anger over the downing of a Malaysian airliner last week in Ukraine.

This is another Bloomberg story---and this one was filed from New York.  It was posted on their Internet site at 4:15 a.m. MDT yesterday---and it's the second offering of the day from Elliot Simon.

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Global Stock Markets at Risk from Black Swan Spike in Oil Price

Global stock markets are at risk from a spike in oil prices which could derail the fragile economic recovery and lead to a major correction in share prices, warns Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank.

Geopolitical risk has increased sharply following the events of last week, a point that has been largely ignored by the ever Panglossian global equity markets that march on upward---and it's at this point I'll hand over to the analysis by Mr Jakobsen:

"The simplest way to 'measure' geopolitical risk is to look at the price of energy. Energy is everything for a macro economist as it is a tax on the economy when high, and a discount when low.

"The way I measure this geopolitical risk is through measuring the spread between the fifthth contract of the WTI Crude and the first contract. Of course, there are other factor workings, but lacking a better alternative, it is what I use."

This article showed up on The Telegraph's website at 11:30 a.m. BST on Tuesday---and it's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Bank of England Leads Push for Deposit Confiscation - Japan, China, Russia Against Bail-Ins

Bank of England officials led by Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, are attempting to bridge sharp differences among leading G20 countries as they prepare a landmark set of proposals aimed at tackling the problem of “too big to fail” banks according to the Financial Times today.

Talks under the auspices of the global Financial Stability Board (FSB) over the summer are approaching a key stage as officials aim to clinch an agreement on bail-ins and the bailing in of creditors including depositors of banks.

Finance officials are hoping to pave the way for proposals to be tabled at the G20 leaders meeting at the Brisbane summit in November.

The issue is of major consequence to globally systemic lenders such as Citigroup, Barclays and BNP Paribas, as some will have to issue billions of dollars of fresh bonds earmarked to carry losses.

The issue is of major consequence also to depositors who could see their savings confiscated as happened in Cyprus.

This Zero Hedge piece was posted on their Web site at 4:38 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and it's courtesy of South African reader B.V.

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France Sticks to Warship Sale to Russia Despite Calls for European Arms Embargo, Sanctions

France says it will go ahead with the sale of a warship to Russia despite calls for an arms embargo against the country, highlighting how Europe's strong business ties are hindering its ability to punish Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

Western powers say Russia is supporting the insurgents in eastern Ukraine who allegedly shot down a Malaysian Airliner last week, killing all 298 people on board.

European Union foreign ministers met Tuesday to consider more sanctions against Russia but agreed only to impose more asset freezes on individuals, leaving economic relations untouched.

Some countries, like Britain, argue the plane crash has raised the stakes and Europe should not go soft on Russia.

This CP/AP story from yesterday was picked up by the Internet site.  I posted a story on this subject about 10 days ago, but there are new details added to this one---and I thank reader Doug Milne for sharing it with us.

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N.Y. Fed Slams Deutsche Bank (and Its €55 Trillion in Derivatives): Accuses it of "Significant Operational Risk"

First it was French BNP that was punished with a $9 billion legal fee after France refused to cancel the Mistral warship shipment to Russia (which promptly led to French National Bank head Christian Noyer to warn that the days of the USD as a reserve currency are numbered), and now moments ago, none other than the 150x-levered NY Fed tapped Angela Merkel on the shoulder with a polite reminder to vote "Yes" on the next, "Level-3" round of Russia sanctions when it revealed, via the WSJ, that "Deutsche Bank's giant U.S. operations suffer from a litany of serious problems, including shoddy financial reporting, inadequate auditing and oversight and weak technology systems."

What could possibly go wrong? Well... this. Recall that as we have shown for two years in a row, Deutsche has a total derivative exposure that amounts to €55 trillion or just about US$75 trillion. That's a trillion with a T, and is about 100 times greater than the €522 billion in deposits the bank has. It is also five times greater than the GDP of Europe and more or less the same as the GDP of...the world.

Well, dear reader, one wonders if the New York Fed has had a gander at JPMorgan's derivatives book recently?  This Zero Hedge piece was posted on their website yesterday sometime---and a lot earlier than the 8:41 p.m. dateline shown on the article, as Washington state reader S.A. sent it our way about five hours before that.  It's definitely worth reading.

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Developing Situation in Ukraine Unacceptable, Counterproductive, Destabilizing - Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that scenarios in the developing crisis in Ukraine are unacceptable, counterproductive and destabilizing the situation in the world.

“If we return to similar scenarios, as a whole, as I have already said, then this is absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive. This is destroying the modern world and order. Undoubtedly, such methods in regard to Russia won’t work,” Putin said during a Security Council meeting.

“Our people, our citizens of Russia won’t let that happen and they will never accept [this],” he said.

This short article appeared on the RIA Novosti Web site at 4:30 p.m. Moscow time yesterday afternoon---and it's another story from Roy Stephens.

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Russia to Respond Adequately to NATO Expansion - Putin

Moscow will respond adequately and equitably if NATO continues its military presence expansion closer to the Russian borders, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Russia will respond adequately and equitably to the expansion of NATO military infrastructure closer to the Russian borders and the ongoing buildup of NATO forces," Putin said at a meeting of the Russian Security Council.

He also said that Moscow clearly sees that NATO is demonstratively strengthening its presence in Eastern Europe.

Following Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March, the alliance has been systematically stepping up its presence near the Russian border, citing the need to protect its members from potential Russian aggression. Moscow has repeatedly expressed concerns over Western pressure on Russia.

This is another story from the RIA Novosti Web site.  This one put in an appearance at 6:03 p.m. Moscow time on Tuesday evening---and once again my thanks go out to Roy Stephens.

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Russia Vastly Outgunned in Economic Showdown with West

The economic showdown unfolding between Russia and the West is almost entirely one-sided.

The U.S. has the power to bring Russia to its knees through hegemonic control over the world’s banking system, using an array of lethal financial weapons developed by a cell at the U.S. Treasury, and already deployed against Iran and North Korea.

Richard Christopher Granville, from Trusted Sources, said the U.S. “crossed the Rubicon” last week even before the apparent missile strike against Malaysia Airlines flight 17, imposing sanctions that effectively shut the energy trio of Rosneft, Novatek, and Gazprombank out of international finance.

“The Americans have the power to throttle Russia unilaterally because no European or Western bank of any importance is going to defy the U.S. after the fines imposed on BNP Paribas,” he said.

Guilty until proved innocent.  This is typical of the anti-Russia swill that fills the main stream media in Britain and the U.S. these days---and I, for one, wouldn't want to predict the outcome of this because, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard so correctly points out, the hammer will fall on Europe the hardest.  This commentary appeared on the Internet site at 8:39 p.m. BST on Monday evening---and it's another offering from Roy Stephens.   And the anti-Russia sentiment aside, it's definitely worth reading---especially in conjunction with that Zero Hedge piece on Deutsche Bank posted further up.

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Greek Sovereign Debt at 174.1 Percent of GDP in First Quarter

Eurozone public debt rose to 93.9% of economic output in the first quarter of this year, approaching the peak it is expected to reach later in 2014, official data showed on Tuesday.

Government debt of the 18 countries sharing the euro stood at 9.055 trillion euros ($12.21 trillion) in the first three months of this year, compared to 8.905 trillion euros in the last quarter of 2013, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said.

The EU's executive arm - the European Commission - expects the debt to peak at 96.0% of gross domestic product this year and then ease to 95.4% of GDP in 2015.

Nearly 80% of the bloc's debt is in bonds and treasury bills. Loans account for 17.9% of the debt.

Twice bailed-out Greece was the eurozone's most indebted country with sovereign debt of 174.1% of GDP, followed by the bloc's third-biggest economy Italy, with debt equivalent to 135.6% of GDP in the first quarter.

This short Reuters piece, filed from Brussels, showed up on the Internet site earlier this morning Athens time---and I thank reader Harry Grant for sliding it into my in-box just before 4 a.m. EDT this morning.  It's worth reading.

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Turkey's Erdogan: "I Stopped Talking to Obama"

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he ceased direct phone contact with US President Barack Obama once the U.S. backed away from use of military force against Syria last fall.

Erdogan, a supporter of rebel fighters opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, was upset, he said, that the United States did not follow through with military action against Damascus amid the fierce civil war there.

"In the past, I was calling him (Obama) directly. Because I can't get the expected results on Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other," Erdogan said Monday in an interview with the pro-government ATV channel.

"And I have talked to (US Vice President Joe) Biden. He calls me and I call him.”

This news item was posted on the Russia Today Web site at 3:18 p.m. yesterday afternoon Moscow time, which was 7:18 a.m. in New York.  It's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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China Warns Against Politicizing Malaysian Boeing Crash Until Investigation Is Over

“Pending the outcome of the investigation, the parties should not speculate or prejudge, and most importantly we should not artificially politicize [the situation],” Wang Yi said in a statement published on the ministry’s website.

China’s Foreign Minister also welcomed the U.N. Security Council’s resolution adopted late Monday, which condemns the downing of the passenger plane, and called to implement it.

“The primary focus at the moment is to implement the resolution, in particular, to provide international investigators access to the site of the catastrophe for a full fledged investigation,” Wang Yi added.

Excellent advice!  Now there are two adults in the room.  This story, filed from Moscow, was posted on the RIA Novosti Web site at 4:46 p.m. Tuesday afternoon Moscow time---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Argentine Default in Balance as Government Refuses to Capitulate

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez's unflinching poker face in the battle against "holdout" investors suing the country is increasing the odds that her government will default for a second time in 12 years at the end of this month.

She has refused to budge from her stance that Argentina cannot pay out in full to the holdout hedge funds, which snapped up bonds on the cheap after its $100 billion default in 2002. That is despite indirect talks aimed at cutting a deal.

Fernandez last week told leaders of the BRICS emerging economies that it was "impossible" to pay holdouts the full face value of the debt they hold. The funds, she said, could enter a bond swap matching the terms of restructuring deals in 2005 and 2010, which saw creditors accept large write-downs.

It is an old offer the holdouts have previously scoffed at and they have no reason to take it now given that U.S. courts have ruled in their favor and put Argentina, Latin America's No. 3 economy, on the verge of default.

This Reuters story, filed from Buenos Aires, put in an appearance on their Web site yesterday---and I thank reader D.W. Mong for sending it our way.

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Venezuela Admits Its Ever-Growing Dependency from China

Venezuela confirmed Monday that its relations with China have become a fundamental pillar for making progress in almost all sectors of its economy. With a new portfolio of accords and almost 5.7 billion in loans, Beijing will provide support in many key areas.

Facing China's Xi Jinping at the closing ceremony of the 13th bilateral Mixed Commission, President Nicolas Maduro told his Chinese counterpart that his visit of little more than 24 hours had “surpassed all expectations.”

Maduro and Xi closed the meeting having added a number of new pacts to the more than 500 already accumulated in their bilateral relations.

This article was posted on the Internet site early yesterday morning---and I thank Casey Research's own Louis James for passing it around.

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Three King World News Blogs

1. Dr. Stephen Leeb: "Gold and Silver to Skyrocket as We Move to a New World Order"  2. KWN Special Feature: "Gold and Silver Set to Make History---Art Cashin---and 3 Great Charts"  3. Rick Rule: "A 2008-Style Event, Propaganda---and the $64 Billion Question"

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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London Zinc Hits Three-Year High, Aluminium a 16-Month Peak

Zinc hit a three-year high and aluminium touched a 16-month peak on Tuesday as investors sought more exposure to commodities with tightening supply-demand balances and were encouraged by falling inventories and firm equity markets.

London Metal Exchange stocks of zinc fell by 400 tonnes to 656,275 tonnes, their lowest in 3-1/2 years, while aluminium stocks fell by 9,075 tonnes to 4.938 million tonnes, their lowest in nearly two years.

Investors are slowly being drawn back into commodities, attracted by stronger global economic growth and more volatility within some sectors, typified by current investment flows out of grains into industrial metals.

"There's a certain amount of relative value going on where investors prefer one metal over another," Macquarie analyst Vivian Lloyd said.

One wonders how much money would plow into silver if the big investors understood the real supply/demand fundamentals in silver.  But JPMorgan et al are doing a fine job of making sure that fundamentals are never reflected in the silver price---and the prices of the other three precious metals as well.  This Reuters story, filed from London, appeared on their Web site at 9:02 a.m. EDT yesterday---and my thanks go out to Elliot Simon for sending it our way.

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Credit Suisse to Exit Commodities, Posts Big Quarter Loss

Credit Suisse Group AG said it will abandon commodities trading as a $2.6 billion fine to settle a U.S. tax investigation pushed the Swiss bank to its biggest quarterly loss since 2008.

The bank’s net loss in the second quarter was 700 million Swiss francs ($779 million), compared with a profit of 1.05 billion francs a year earlier and a 691 million-franc estimate from analysts. Zurich-based Credit Suisse posted higher-than-forecast earnings at the investment bank and lower profit in wealth management even as it attracted more net new money from rich clients than analysts had estimated.

Chief Executive Officer Brady Dougan is reporting a second quarterly loss in less than a year as Credit Suisse grapples with regulatory probes. Analysts and investors have said Credit Suisse should step up efforts to shrink its investment bank and focus on wealth management to boost returns and shore up capital eroded by the U.S. fine. The bank reaffirmed plans to cut at least 4.5 billion francs in annual costs by the end of next year compared with 2011.

Of course they're not going to "abandon" precious metals trading.  How can banks rig these markets if they can't trade them?  I would guess that Credit Suisse has a decent short position in the Comex precious metal market, but they're not a really big player.  This Bloomberg story, filed from Zurich, showed up on their Internet site at 5:29 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Tuesday---and I thank Elliot Simon for his final contribution to today's column.

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Hambro "Horrified" by Tampering of London Gold Fix

Peter Hambro, chairman of gold producer Petropavlovsk Plc, said he was "horrified" by the manipulation of the London fix given its importance to the industry.

"When I read the reports on what people had been doing to it, I was horrified," Hambro said in an interview today. "It is something that is really important to people in the industry. It's something that we use in a big way as we deliver our gold. That's how we price."

"To have something that we can rely on is vitally important," said Hambro, who previously traded bullion at Marc Rich Group and Mocatta & Goldsmid Ltd. "I look forward to its continuing existence."

Hambro is more than aware of the price management scheme in gold and the other precious metals, so his comments are certainly disingenuous---and that's being kind.  This short gold-related "news" item, filed from London,  showed up on the Bloomberg Web site in the wee hours of Tuesday morning Denver time---and I found it embedded in a GATA release.

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Lawrence Williams: Escalating Ukraine Crisis Could Blow Gold Sky High

It is thus perhaps a wonder that gold, as the safe haven of choice, is not flying far and away higher than it is at the moment---and the logic here is that it is indeed being held down by a bullion banking sector which could find itself in serious default if the gold price ran sky-high.  And if some of the analysts on the bullish side of the gold equation are correct in their assumptions that many Western central banks (with the approval of their governments whether they are deemed independent or not) have leased out much of their gold reserves, and that the banks to which they have leased them are in no position to return the bullion, then the proverbial could well be set to hit the fan as banks default in their commitments – should government allow that to happen!

This observer is thus more and more being drawn to the possibility of a big gold price escalation looming sooner rather than later, as opposed to the $1,050 year-end call being reiterated by the perhaps exposed banks like Goldman Sachs.  But this viewpoint is very much one’s own interpretation of what is going on in global geopolitics which itself is reliant on attempts to interpret the various media spin coming from  both sides and, as can be seen from the above commentary, this is no easy thing to do.  Who can one really believe in this day and age of political spin?

This very well-balanced commentary by Lawrie was posted on the Internet site yesterday---and it's definitely a must read.

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Jul 22, 2014

First Detroit, Now Flint Warns Bankruptcy "Train Is Headed For the Cliff"

Flint may be Michigan’s second city to plunge into bankruptcy unless retirees accept cuts in health benefits that threaten to unravel a balanced budget. As Crain's Detroit reports, Emergency Manager Darnell Earley (Flint’s third emergency leader since it was placed under state control in 2011) warned "If we have no ability to mitigate the cost of retiree health care, that’s going to make it very difficult for the city to remain financially stable over the next few years." As Eric Scorsone notes, "Flint's at the forefront, but a lot of cities are on the same train, and that train is headed for the cliff."

Like Detroit, which a year ago this week filed the largest U.S. municipal bankruptcy, Flint has struggled with loss of population, jobs and revenue. The birthplace of General Motors Co. has only half its population of 1960.

Today's first news item was posted on the Zero Hedge Web site at 7:38 p.m. on Saturday---and I thank Brad Robertson for sending it our way.

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Former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder Rips House Bill to Regulate Fed More Tightly

Former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder isn't too impressed with the new House bill designed to increase the central bank's accountability and transparency.

"While the House can't manage to engage on important issues like tax reform, immigration reform and the minimum wage, it's more than willing to propose radical 'reform' of one of the few national policies that is working well," he writes in The Wall Street Journal.

To be sure, the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act does include some good ideas, such as shortening the news blackouts before and after meetings of the Fed's policy-making Federal Open Market Committee, Blinder says.

Accountability and transparency are worthy goals, he says. But the bill "includes some corkers, such as requiring public disclosures—in advance—before entering into international negotiations, disclosures that could make such negotiations next to impossible," Blinder writes.

This story appeared on the Internet site at 10:21 a.m. EDT last Friday---and it's courtesy of West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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The Dollar's 70-Year Dominance Is Coming to an End

In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.

The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British Empire several decades earlier. America was also on course to be among the victors of “Europe’s conflict”, even though its economy was largely unscathed by war. As such, Bretton Woods was U.S.-dominated and produced a settlement largely on US terms.

Seventy years ago this week, that fateful summit ended. Its close marked the moment the dollar’s unquestionable supremacy was secured. Since then, global commerce has been conducted largely in dollars and leading economies have held the greenback as their primary reserve currency.

The same system remains intact today, with the lion’s share of commercial settlements worldwide still clearing the U.S. banking system – even if the parties involved have nothing to do with the States.

This commentary, which is definitely worth reading, was posted on the Internet site at 5:30 p.m. BST on Saturday afternoon London time---and the first person through the door with it was Elliot Simon, with his second contribution in a row to today's column.

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Government Agents "Directly involved" in Most High-Profile US Terror Plots

Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the "direct involvement" of government agents or informants, a new report says.

Some of the controversial "sting" operations "were proposed or led by informants", bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist.

The lengthy report, released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system's ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases. It portrays a system that features not just the sting operations but secret evidence, anonymous juries, extensive pretrial detentions and convictions significantly removed from actual plots.

"In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act," the report alleges.

This very interesting [and not very surprising] story appeared on Internet site at 2:30 p.m. BST yesterday afternoon---and I thank South African reader B.V. for sharing it with us.

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Serious Fraud Office to Launch Criminal Probe into Forex Rigging

The Serious Fraud Office is poised to launch the first criminal investigation into alleged rigging of the £3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange markets at leading City banks.

The financial watchdog is expected to announce the move as early as this week, according to reports, raising the spectre of further multimillion-pound fines for Britain’s biggest banks over their behaviour during and after the financial crisis.

Investigators are expected to examine whether individual traders personally benefited by manipulating benchmark forex prices. It is claimed that traders colluded via online chatrooms in groups with names such as the Bandits’ Club, the Dream Team and the Cartel.

The SFO’s criminal inquiry into alleged currency markets rigging in London, home to more than 40% of the world’s foreign exchange trading, will join global investigations into forex market abuse by watchdogs across Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

This very interesting article put in an appearance on The Telegraph's website at 12:22 p.m. on Sunday afternoon London time---and it's something I found in a GATA release.

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Berlin Wants to Prosecute US Handlers of German Spies

Criminal prosecution is likely to be expanded on Americans involved in recruiting and supervising activities of German officials spying for the U.S. intelligence, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Welt am Sonntag.

If investigators find a body of evidence that alleged double agents in Germany’s federal intelligence service and Defense Ministry have been spying to the benefit of American intelligence, “the investigation would extend on their feasible patrons,” Maas declared.

According to Welt am Sonntag, the alleged spymaster is the U.S. citizen Andrew M., a 52-year-old international political consultant, who allegedly received confidential military documents from the Germans.

“The law applies to everyone without discrimination,” Maas said, stressing that intelligence security laws apply on friendly states either. “Those who do not abide by the law in this country may have to face criminal prosecution,” he said.

This news item was posted on the Russia Today Web site at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon Moscow time---and it's the first offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Juncker Faces Political Test As Fines Loom on Illegal German Trade Surplus

Germany’s current account surplus is the largest ever recorded in proportional terms and far above the threshold for EU sanctions, posing a major political test for the incoming commission of Jean-Claude Juncker.

The International Monetary Fund said the country’s surplus has reached 8.25pc of GDP when adjusted for the economic cycle and has become economically destructive, making it ever harder for eurozone crisis states to claw their way out of trouble.

The surplus is between three and six percentage points higher than is either “desirable” or justified by fundamentals, the IMF said in its annual health check on Germany.

This is unlikely to change much unless Berlin takes active steps to reduce the imbalance. The Fund called on Germany to do more to help weaker EMU states in “liquidity traps” by boosting its own internal demand.

What???  You couldn't make this stuff up.  Take two blue pills---and hope they work!  This Ambrose Evans-Pritchard offering put in an appearance on the Internet site at 3:52 pm. BST yesterday---and it's the second contribution in a row from Roy Stephens.  It's worth reading.

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The Boomerang Effect: Sanctions on Russia Hit German Economy Hard

It wasn't that long ago that Kremlin officials could hardly avoid laughing when asked about the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. As long as every NATO member state jealously sought to protect its own business interests, things "weren't all that bad," they gloated.

But since last week, their moods have darkened. For months, the European Union in particular had been reluctant to enact effective penalties against Moscow. Last Wednesday, though, the 28 EU heads of state and government cleared a psychological hurdle: For the first time, they opted go beyond sanctions targeting individual political leaders in Moscow, adding prohibitions against doing business with specific Russian companies that contribute to the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine. A concrete list is to be presented by the end of the month. European development banks have also been banned from providing loans to Russian companies.

The US, for its part, penalized a dozen leading Russian conglomerates, including oil giant Rosneft, natural gas producer Novatek, Gazprombank and the weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov. From now on, they are forbidden from borrowing money from American monetary institutions and from issuing medium- and long-term debt to investors with ties to the US.

For the companies involved, the penalties are a significant blow. It has become difficult to acquire capital in Russia itself, with both domestic and foreign investors withdrawing their money from the country in recent months. It is hardly surprising, then, that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke of a return to the Cold War and President Vladimir Putin warned that sanctions "usually have a boomerang effect."

This article appeared on the German Web site at 5:11 p.m. Europe time on Monday---and it's the third story in a row from Roy Stephens.

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Obama Seen Gaining on Putin As US Prods EU on Sanctions

President Barack Obama’s response to the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine reflects the consensus of U.S. officials that time, evidence, and world opinion are increasingly on his side as he takes on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Secretary of State John Kerry cited the tragedy yesterday in an effort to prod Europeans into expanding sanctions against Russia, even at some peril to their own economies, in an effort to break Putin’s support for pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists.

“We are trying to encourage our European friends to realize this is a wake-up call,” Kerry said on “Fox News Sunday,” invoking a phrase used last week by Obama.

This is what passes as serious journalism in the U.S., U.K.---and Canada these days.  This is warmongering by insinuation, as there's not a shred of proof that Russia was either directly or indirectly involved. This Bloomberg offering appeared on their Web site at 11:25 Denver time yesterday---and once again my thanks go out to Roy Stephens for sending it.

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EU Under Pressure to Broaden Russia Sanctions

The U.S. and the U.K. are putting pressure on the E.U. to impose tougher sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines disaster.

The calls come ahead of an E.U. foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (22 July) - the first opportunity for the bloc to discuss the incident, in which hundreds of Europeans, mostly Dutch people, lost their lives.

The U.S. and the U.K. have said pro-Russia rebels shot down the plane using a Russian-supplied missile.

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry added on Sunday on Fox News: “We are trying to encourage our European friends to realise this is a wake-up call, and hopefully they will also join us in these tougher sanctions”.

This article, filed from Brussels, was posted on the Internet site at 10:25 a.m. Europe time yesterday [5:25 a.m. EDT]---and it's another story courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Five Ukraine, Russia, and Flight MH17 Stories

1. "Putin: Task force at Malaysia MH17 crash site not enough, full-scale international team needed" - Russia Today  2. ‘Too good opportunity to miss’: MH17 blame game has political motives, may lead to warRussia Today - Op Edge  3. Ukrainian militia hand over MH17 flight recorders to Malaysia: Russia Today  4. Blogger finds missile believed to have shot down Flight MH17: The New York Post  5. Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash: Russia Today

[The above stories are courtesy of Brad Robertson, Harry Grant---and Roy Stephens]

Note:  I had no luck getting on the Russia Today Web site early yesterday evening---and I had the same problem at times on the weekend.  I'm not sure what to make of it, but the Web site hasn't complained of a DoS attack, so I'm not sure what the reason might be.  Maybe it's just my ISP.

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Guilt By Insinuation: How American Propaganda Works — Paul Craig Roberts

Why hasn’t Washington joined Russian President Putin in calling for an objective, non-politicized international investigation by experts of the case of the Malaysian jetliner?

The Russian government continues to release facts, including satellite photos showing the presence of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missiles in locations from which the airliner could have been brought down by the missile system and documentation that a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet rapidly approached the Malaysian airliner prior to its downing. The head of the Operations Directorate of Russian military headquarters said at a Moscow press conference today (July 21) that the presence of the Ukrainian military jet is confirmed by the Rostov monitoring center.

The Russian Defense Ministry pointed out that at the moment of destruction of MH-17 an American satellite was flying over the area. The Russian government urges Washington to make available the photos and data captured by the satellite.

President Putin has repeatedly stressed that the investigation of MH-17 requires “a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).” Putin’s call for an independent expert examination by ICAO does not sound like a person with anything to hide.

Always controversial, but never too far off the mark in my opinion, this commentary by Paul was posted on his website on Monday sometime---and I thank Brad Robertson for being the first reader through the door with it yesterday.  It's definitely worth reading.

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Russia Calls for Investigation of Foreign Mercenaries' Participation in Ukraine Hostilities

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday demanded that Sweden, Finland, the Baltic states and France conduct a thorough investigation into alleged involvement of mercenaries from these countries in hostilities in eastern Ukraine.

“We demand the authorities of the above-mentioned countries to conduct a thorough investigation into these facts and condemn the participation of mercenaries in the hostilities in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said this while commenting on an article in Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper which was published over the weekend. The publication reported that mercenaries from ex-Soviet Baltic states, as well as Sweden, Finland and France fought in the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary group supporting the Kiev government troops and financed by Ukrainian oligarch and governor Ihor Kolomoiskyi.

This short RIA Novosti article, filed from Moscow, appeared on their Internet site at 8:57 p.m. on Monday evening Moscow time---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for finding it for us.

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Neighborhood Ravaged on Deadliest Day So Far for Both Sides in Gaza

The mayhem began in the early hours of Sunday morning in Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City, where Israeli forces battled with Hamas militants. Terrified civilians fled, sometimes past the bodies of those struck down in earlier artillery barrages. By dusk it was clear that Sunday was the deadliest single day for the Palestinians in the latest conflict and the deadliest for the Israeli military in years.

At least 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and officers were killed in Shejaiya alone, and the shattered neighborhood was quickly becoming a new symbol of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, underlining the rising cost of this newest Gaza war.

The death tolls and the withering assault on Shejaiya appeared to shake the international community, with world leaders continuing to carefully call for both sides to step back but with criticism of Israel rising. Within hours, President Obama had called the Israeli prime minister for the second time in three days, the United Nations Security Council had called an emergency session at the urging of the Palestinians, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had issued a statement calling the attack on Shejaiya “an atrocious action.”

This New York Times story, filed from Gaza City, was posted on their Web site on Sunday sometime---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Renminbi Swap Deal Brings Swiss Hub Dream Closer

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) and China have signed a currency swap agreement in a bid to allow Beijing to expand its renminbi business in Switzerland. The finance ministry has hailed the accord as an important step.

The three-year deal, signed in Beijing on Monday, sets the conditions for the central banks of the two countries to purchase and re-purchase Chinese renminbi or Swiss francs up to CHF21 billion ($23.4 billion).

“The swap agreement is a key requisite for the development of a renminbi market in Switzerland,” the SNB said.

The SNB can also buy up to CHF2 billion worth of Chinese bonds, helping it diversify its foreign-exchange reserves which have swelled to almost CHF450 billion.

This article appeared on the website at 3:39 p.m. on Monday Europe time---and it's the second offering of the day from reader B.V.

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Three King World News Blogs/Audio Interviews

1. John Embry: "This is the Most Dangerous Period in 69 Years"  2. James Turk: "Historic Shift in the Gold and Silver Markets"  3. Richard Russell: "War, $10,000 Gold---and Worldwide Collapse"

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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"Dr. Doom" Faber: Stocks in a Bubble, Buy Gold

Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, talks about his view that stocks are in a "bubble" and not a good value. Faber speaks with Alix Steel on Bloomberg Television's "Surveillance"---and she goes out of her way to bait Marc at every opportunity, to the point of being obtuse.

This 5:25-minute video clip was posted on the Bloomberg Web site yesterday---and I thank Washington state reader S.A. for bringing it to our attention.

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Gold Worth Millions Recovered from 1857 Shipwreck

Millions of dollars worth of gold has been recovered from a famous 19th-century shipwreck off South Carolina being fought over in court, the first inventories of the salvaged cargo show.

A federal judge in Virginia overseeing the recovery effort from the S.S. Central America released the mid-April-to-mid-June tallies late Wednesday, the Associated Press and The Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday. An updated list is likely soon.

AP based the estimated value of the gold coins and bars on treasure that was sold for $50 million to $60 million after the shipwreck was found in 1988 by Tommy Thompson of Columbus, Ohio, now a fugitive and the target of lawsuits from jilted investors who bankrolled his expedition.

This interesting article was posted on the Web site at 10:40 p.m. EDT last Thursday---and it's another offering from Elliot Simon.

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Farmers Flock to Gold-Backed Loans in India

Farmers in Andhra Pradesh appear to have taken more loans by pledging gold bars and ornaments, than loans from banks for purely agricultural purposes. Some have even diverted the agri loan and bought gold.

According to official records, up to March 31, 2014, farmers have taken loans worth $5.7 billion (Rs 348 billion) by putting up gold as collateral, while $4.2 billion (Rs 257 billion) was taken as crop loans.

In their review meetings, bank officials have noted that a majority of the loans, particularly by pledging gold, were taken by farmers after January 2014. Officials said the reason for this could be attributed to the fact that the interest rate on loans meant for agriculture is far less, than other loans like personal loans, education loans, or home building loans, etc.

Another reason for the rising number of loans was Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s election promise of waiving off all farm loans after coming to power. This spurred farmers to go all out and take more loans, with some diverting loans, ostensibly taken for agriculture, to actually buy bullion.

This very interesting read, filed from Mumbai, was posted on the Internet site yesterday sometime---and it's the final contribution of the day from Elliot Simon.

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Silver Imports Slump in India in June

India's silver imports have slid by 53.4% to $212.8 million in June from $457 million in June last year, according to the data released by the Union ministry of commerce.

In volume terms, imports fell from 579 tonnes last June to 323 tonnes this year.

In May last year, the Reserve Bank of India had directed banks not to import gold on a consignment basis, denting inflows in June. This year, with some easing in the number of entities allowed to import, gold imports have surged to $3.1 billion in June, from $1.9 billion a year earlier.

This is another story filed from Mumbai and posted on the Internet site yesterday.

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Koos Jansen: Chinese Wholesale Gold Demand Year to Date Is Nearly 1,000 Tonnes

Chinese wholesale gold demand for the year through July 11 has reached 998 tonnes, gold researcher and GATA consultant Koos Jansen reported yesterday. While off-take from the Shanghai Gold Exchange for the week ending July 11 was somewhat diminished, Jansen writes, copper has been trading in backwardation in Shanghai for two weeks.

Jansen's commentary is posted at Internet site---and I found this gold-related news item embedded in a GATA release yesterday.  It's worth reading.

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New Gold Miner ETF Avoids Primary Investment in Barrick

It looks like you can now buy a gold-mining stock exchange-traded fund without putting the biggest part of your money in Barrick Gold, the biggest gold hedger and enabler of gold price suppression, the company that 11 years ago, by virtue of its enormous hedging, claimed to be the agent of central banks in the gold market.

The new ETF is the Sprott Gold Miners ETF, which began trading last week. According to its announcement, the ETF is based on the Sprott Zacks Gold Miners Index and "uses a transparent, rules-based methodology designed to identify 25 gold stocks that historically have the highest beta to the spot price of gold, with each stock's weighting in the index adjusted based on its quarterly revenue growth and long-term debt to equity."

The ETF received favorable notice from the Wall Street Cheat Sheet, which noted that "each quarter the fund is re-weighted. This means that the fund is going to take profits on its out-performers and reallocate this capital to the under-performers. The Market Vectors Gold Miner ETF does no such thing. In fact, when the fund sees capital inflows, it pumps more money into the top performers because these are the companies that become the highest-weighted stocks in the fund."

Of course GATA is no investment adviser, but nobody who wants a free and transparent market in the monetary metals can be enthusiastic about any investment that abets gold price suppression.

This commentary by Chris was posted on the Internet site just before midnight EDT last night.

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Wary Investors Slow to Warm to Barrick Gold's Latest Shakeup

Worried they may be given the cold shoulder by an imperious leadership, shareholders of Barrick Gold Corp, the world's biggest gold miner, are taking a "show me" approach to the company's latest management shakeup.

Barrick said last week that Chief Executive Jamie Sokalsky will leave the company in September. He will be replaced by two co-presidents, a move that concentrates power in the hands of Executive Chairman John Thornton, a man handpicked for the job by Peter Munk, who founded the company and headed it his way for decades.

"The concern in this situation is that the person setting the strategy does not listen to the shareholders, who are the real owners of the company," said Chris Mancini, an analyst at Gabelli Gold Fund, which owns more than 2.4 million shares in Barrick according to Thomson Reuters data.

"There was a concern within the market that Mr. Munk was not listening to shareholders...And so if Mr. Thornton also doesn't listen to shareholders that could be a problem again."

The problem, dear reader, as you already know, is the fact that none of the precious metal mining companies gives a flying %$&@ about their shareholders.  They're quite happy to sell their products at, or below, the cost of production---and will never lift a finger to do what has to be done.  John Embry was quite right.  The mining companies are either ignorant, naïve---or complicit.  Barrick fits into the last category.  I found this story, filed from London this morning, on the Internet site just before I hit the send button on today's missive.

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Jul 19, 2014

Fed Inflation Hawks Are Pressing for Rate Hikes: CNN Money

A trio of inflation hawks at the Federal Reserve — Richard Fisher, Esther George and Charles Plosser — believe it's about time to take the punch bowl away.

The three regional Fed bank presidents are on a mission to urge their colleagues to take a tougher monetary policy stance, CNNMoney reported.

"Not only do they want the Fed to stop buying bonds (there's already a plan in place to eliminate those as early as October)—they also want the central bank to raise its short-term interest rate sooner than investors are expecting," CNNMoney stated.

This story appeared on the Internet site at 7:21 a.m. EDT Friday morning---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for today's first story.

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Jim Grant: Watch Out For a 'Thunderclap' in the Economy

Grant’s Interest Rate Observer founder Jim Grant believes the Fed Reserve is "constitutionally behind the curve" and that a thunderclap of unexpected problems could strike the economy as a result.

Grant told Fox Business Network that the uncharted territory the Fed has been in with its vast monetary stimulus means no one can predict the eventual outcome.

“The Fed is in the business of reacting to things instead of acting on things,” he said.

This is another story from the Internet site yesterday morning---and it's also courtesy of Elliot Simon.

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Exclusive: SEC targets 10 firms in high frequency trading probe - SEC document

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been seeking information on 10 registered broker dealers as part of an ongoing investigation into high-frequency trading strategies, according to an internal SEC document reviewed by Reuters.

The regulator told its staff in late March that it was interested in seeing any tips, complaints, or referrals that they receive concerning the brokers and high frequency trading.

The firms listed are Allston Trading LLC; Hudson River Trading LLC; Jump Trading LLC; Latour Trading LLC, which is an affiliate of Tower Trading; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, owned by Bank of America Group; Octeg LLC, which has been merged into a unit of KCG Holdings Inc; Tradebot Systems Inc; Two Sigma Investments LLC; Two Sigma Securities LLC; and Virtu Financial.

Let's see if anything positive comes out of this.  If it accidentally does, it will certainly take a while.  This Reuters story, filed from New York, showed up on their Internet site at 5:19 p.m. EDT on Friday afternoon---and it's the third contribution of the day from Elliot Simon.

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Policing Wall Street: David Nelson, Belpointe Asset Management

Just take a look at BNP Paribas, that case. When you read the indictment it reads like treason. And certainly, management knew what they were doing was a criminal act, yet there's no prosecution of those responsible, and that's what justice is supposed to do---it's supposed to root out criminal activity, protect the public and also bring to justice those responsible.  Where are the perp walks---and why has nobody gone to jail?

This very interesting 2:36 minute video interview was posted on the CNBC website at 2:50 p.m. EDT on Wednesday---and it's worth watching.  I thank reader Joe Kahan for sending it our way.

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Nanex: 15 July 2014---Perfect Pilfering

A detailed exposé on how the market is rigged from a data-centric approach

We received trade execution reports from an active trader who wanted to know why his large orders almost never completely filled, even when the amount of stock advertised exceeded the number of shares wanted. For example, if 25,000 shares were at the best offer, and he sent in a limit order at the best offer price for 20,000 shares, the trade would, more likely than not, come back partially filled. In some cases, more than half of the amount of stock advertised (quoted) would disappear immediately before his order arrived at the exchange. This was the case, even in deeply liquid stocks such as Ford Motor Co (symbol F, market cap: $70 Billion, NYSE DMM is Barclays). The trader sent us his trade execution reports, and we matched up his trades with our detailed consolidated quote and trade data to discover that the mechanism described in Michael Lewis's "Flash Boys" was alive and well on Wall Street.

"This is just beautifully done. clean, simple, irrefutable. I hope it gets read far and wide." -- Michael Lewis after reading this article.

This no-punches-pulled essay will be way over most reader's heads---and most of it was way over mine---but it's not the parts that you don't understand that will bother you.  This is definitely worth struggling through---as it's certainly no puff piece.  It was posted on the website on Tuesday---and my thanks go out to reader "Fazl" for bringing it to our attention.

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Up next: A double whammy of high unemployment and inflation

History has taught printing too much money usually fires up inflation, and once ignited, inflation is darn painful to douse. That has already occurred in prices for assets like some social media stocks, commercial real estate and farm land, and now it is spreading more broadly. Since March, consumer price inflation has accelerated and is now about 4 percent.

Fed Chairwoman Yellen in her recent testimony expressed little appreciation for the nagging structural problems causing unemployment and denied inflation is much of a problem at all.

Americans should expect the Fed to flail about, recklessly printing money and brace for a bout with stagflation -- high unemployment, stagnant wages and rising prices.

This opinion piece by Peter Morici showed up on the Internet site at 9:26 a.m. EDT on Thursday---and I thank Roy Stephens for his first contribution of the day.

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Big jump in number of millennials living with parents reported

More Americans than ever live in multi-generational households, and the number of millennials who live with their parents is rising sharply, according to a study released Thursday.

A record 57 million Americans, or 18.1% of the population, lived in multi-generational arrangements in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. That's more than double the 28 million people who lived in such households in 1980, the center said.

A multi-generational family is defined as one with two or more generations of adults living together.

The sluggish job market and other factors have propelled the rise in millennials living in their childhood bedrooms.

This short article appeared on the Internet site on Thursday morning PDT---and it's something that I found in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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Eric Sprott: Markets at a Glance: The Ongoing Rot in the Economy

While most have been conveniently blaming the tepid first quarter -2.9% GDP growth figure on the weather, we believe that it is just another symptom of a much deeper malaise. As we have argued many times before (see, for example, the March 2014 Markets at a Glance), the U.S. economy has been on life support, graciously provided by Central Planners. However hard they try, they will soon realize that no amount of money printing can cleanse the rot of the U.S. economy.

Most tellingly, in a recent interview with Reuters, Bill Simon, Wal-Mart’s Chief Executive Officer for the U.S., said that “We’ve reached a point where it’s not getting any better but it’s not getting any worse – at least for the middle (class) and down.”

Indeed, if one looks past headline figures, things are not really getting better. As shown in Figure 1, real disposable income per capita in the U.S. has increased only modestly since the Great Recession. However, all of this increase is due to Government Transfers, not from an improvement in the real economy. If we exclude those transfers from the numbers, disposable income per capita is actually lower than it was at the end of 2005 and has been painfully flat since 2011. Also, those numbers assume that the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) accurately represents people’s purchasing power.

In this Markets at a Glance, we investigate the U.S. consumer and show that for a large portion of the population, things are not anywhere close to being better, in fact they are worse than before the recession.

This Markets at a Glance by Eric certainly falls into the must read category.  It was posted on the Internet site late yesterday morning EDT.

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Doug Noland: Druckenmiller the Statesman

And while on the subject of a “natural rate,” I think it’s worth pondering this concept in terms of today’s extraordinarily low Treasury and corporate yields. I believe central bank policies – especially “open-ended” QE3 – have comprehensively distorted asset markets. First, the unprecedented purchases of Treasuries and MBS created liquidity/purchasing power that inflated securities prices generally. Secondly, this liquidity onslaught incited dangerous self-reinforcing excess throughout corporate debt and equities markets. And a runaway corporate securities Bubble has of late boosted the safe haven appeal of Treasuries, with sinking yields further stoking the historic Bubble throughout virtually all asset markets.

Importantly, the willingness to adopt an open-ended approach to the third round of QE has been viewed throughout the marketplace as the Fed (in concert with the global central bank community) having adopted a regime of boundless securities market support. This has profoundly affected market perceptions, hence securities pricing, with the greatest impact upon the traditionally higher-risk segments of the corporate and “structured finance” securities markets.

Stated somewhat differently, the collapse in risk premiums – risk asset price inflation – is this inflationary cycle’s greatest market distortion. Indeed, I would strongly argue that unprecedented liquidity injections coupled with implied (ok, explicit) central bank market backstops has inflated the biggest Bubble yet. Any semblance of a “neutral rate” – or a stable securities market price “equilibrium” – would require that central banks extricate themselves from the securities market liquidity and backstopping business. Good luck with that.

I found Doug's weekly Credit Bubble Bulletin posted on the Internet site yesterday evening.

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Rickards: Stock market reality check

Listening to mainstream market commentary on television and reading the financial press leaves one with the impression that the economic recovery is gaining strength and that stock market indices, at or near all-time highs, will go higher still.

The litany of market happy talk is impressive. The unemployment rate has dropped to 6.1%, down about 4 percentage points from its peak, and is expected to go lower in the months ahead. The economy created about 230,000 jobs per month in the first half of 2014, which brings the increase in jobs to nine million since the economic recovery began in mid-2009. Interest rates remain low, which supports high asset valuations in stocks and housing. Inflation is tame and expectations about future inflation are well anchored. To hear the stock market bulls tell the story, all is right with the world.

But all is not right. In fact, the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are in awful condition and are getting worse. Almost everything about the happy talk story is superficial, and falls apart under scrutiny. There is an alternative narrative of bad news that is seldom discussed on mainstream business channels but is well known to analysts. When these adverse trends are taken into account one conclusion in inescapable. The stock market and economic fundamentals are on a collision course. One or the other will have to swerve. Either the economy will have to improve rapidly and unexpectedly and reverse its fundamental weakness, or inflated stock values are heading for a precipitous fall. The evidence suggests that the latter is more likely.

This commentary by Jim Rickards appeared on the Darien Times website yesterday sometime and, as usual, it's courtesy of Harold Jacobsen.  It's definitely worth reading.

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West tightens noose on Russia's energy sector as geopolitical crisis deepens

The apparent shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine with 295 people on board is a dramatic turn in the region’s simmering crisis.

Any proof that the passenger aircraft was blown out of the sky at 32,000 feet by a Russian fighter jet by mistake or by Russian missiles supplied to separatist rebels in the Donbass region may have huge political consequences, risking Cold War sanctions of such severity that Russia would be shut out of the global financial system.

Both Russia and Ukraine deny responsibility.

The incident comes a day after sweeping U.S. sanctions against Russia’s top oil producer and key energy companies had already shattered the illusory summer calm on Moscow’s markets, raising fears of an investment freeze and a protracted crisis that could last for years.

Here's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's assessment of the situation as it stood on Thursday evening BST.  It's not exactly friendly to Russia, which should come as no surprise to anyone.  It was posted on The Telegraphs' website---and I thank Roy Stephens for his second contribution to today's column.

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Tragedy on Top of Crisis May Strengthen Stand Against Russia in U.S. and Europe

The downing of a commercial Boeing 777 in the Ukrainian war zone on Thursday inflamed an already volatile international crisis and may bolster President Obama’s efforts to isolate Russia if evidence points to complicity by Moscow’s separatist allies.

Mr. Obama was careful not to offer any judgments in his only public comments on the crash. But Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said bluntly that the aircraft with 298 people on board was “blown out of the sky,” and the White House late Thursday issued a statement linking the crash to a crisis “fueled by Russian support for the separatists.”

If investigators are able to confirm suspicions that the Malaysia Airlines jet was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian rebels who mistook it for a military aircraft, American officials expressed hope that the tragedy will underscore their case that Moscow has been violating Ukrainian sovereignty. While Mr. Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia just a day before, Europeans refused to adopt measures as stringent out of fear of jeopardizing their own economic ties.

This article on the same issue appeared on The New York Times website on Thursday sometime---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Questions over why Malaysian plane flew over Ukrainian war zone

As the world tries to cope with the tragic loss of almost 300 people in the apparent downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, questions have arisen over why the civil aircraft was directed over a war zone.

MH17, carrying passengers from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed on Thursday in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, the scene of intensive battles between Ukrainian troops and local militias defying Kiev’s rule. In the last several days the militias scored a number of successes, including the reported downing of three Ukrainian military aircraft.

Despite the violence on the ground and apparent danger to aircraft, the Malaysian airliner was directed to pass right over the war zone and was apparently shot down by a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile fired by a Buk-type launcher. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, which resulted in the largest loss of life in the Ukrainian armed conflict so far.

“There are still question to answer like why this plane was flying over that area, whether it was on the correct flight path. It was flying over a war zone where missiles have been fired. It’s a war zone, so why was it flying over there?” blogger and writer Neil Clark asked in an interview with RT.

This news item appeared on the Russia Today website at 10:48 a.m. Moscow time Friday morning, which was 2:48 a.m. in New York.  Once again I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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Ukrainian Buk battery radar was operational when Malaysian plane downed - Moscow

On Thursday, when a Malaysian Airlines plane was apparently shot down over Ukraine, a Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile battery was operational in the region, the Russian Defense Ministry said, contradicting Kiev’s statements.

The battery was deployed at a site from which it could have fired a missile at the airliner, the ministry said in a statement. It said radiation from the battery’s radar was detected by the Russian military.

“The Russian equipment detected throughout July 17 the activity of a Kupol radar, deployed as part of a Buk-M1 battery near Styla [a village some 30km south of Donetsk],” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the radar could be providing tracking information to another battery deployed in the region, which was at a firing distance from the plane’s flight path.

This news story is, once again, from the Russia Today Internet site.  It was posted there at 9:31 a.m. Moscow time yesterday morning---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Lavrov: Russia won’t take control of Malaysian plane’s black boxes

Moscow has no plans to seize the flight recorders from the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told Rossiya 24 channel.

The seizure of flight records would violate international law as it’s up to relevant international agencies to investigate of the incident, he explained.

The analysis of the flight recorders “is the responsibility of ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization]; it’s the responsibility of those states which have the most direct connection to this tragedy – the Netherlands, Malaysia and the states whose citizens were on board, and of course Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

The minister also called on the U.N. Security Council to urgently launch an open and impartial investigation into the plane crash in Ukraine.

This article is also from the Russia Today website.  This one was posted there at 11:46 a.m. Moscow time on Friday---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Moscow calls for International probe into Malaysia MH17 flight crash – Russia’s U.N. envoy

Russia urges an impartial and open investigation into the Malaysian Boeing 777 crash in Ukraine and an international commission to be set up. Addressing the U.N., Russia’s envoy Churkin said a probe into Ukraine's aviation authorities is also necessary.

“As we see it, it is necessary to investigate not only the crash itself but also how Ukraine's aviation authorities performed their professional duties,” Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said as he questioned why a passenger flight was allowed over an area of armed conflict.

Malaysia Airline said in a statement on Friday that Ukraine’s traffic controllers ordered the Boeing-777 to lower by 500 meters when the aircraft entered Ukrainian airspace. It added that pilots were supposed to fly at 35,000 ft (10,660 meters) throughout Ukrainian airspace, but air traffic control on the ground instructed MH17 to fly at 33,000 ft (10,058 meters).

Russia’s envoy said ensuring the security of civilian aviation in a state's airspace is the responsibility of the state.

This is another Russia Today news item.  It appeared on their Internet site at 8:19 p.m. Moscow time on Friday evening---shortly after noon in New York.  The RT stories from Roy just keep on coming.

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Malaysia MH17 crash: 10 questions Russia wants Ukraine to answer

Some Western states and Kiev rushed to find Russian involvement in the MH17 crash having no evidence to back their claims, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister told RT. He invited Ukraine to answer 10 questions to prove their commitment to an impartial probe.

Speaking to RT, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov has criticized Western countries for jumping to conclusions just “24 hours after the crash” while there is no evidence.

“They try to show to the whole world that we are responsible for the crash. It is very strange that without any evidence my colleagues from western media would like to find somebody who is responsible for the crash,” Antonov said. “It seems to me that this is part of information warfare which has been started against the Russian Federation and armed forces.”

“As for me, I don’t want to use this opportunity to blame anybody. I would just like to raise few questions for my colleagues from the armed forces of Ukraine,” Antonov said. “I hope they try to answer the questions, it will be a good opportunity for us to realize where we are, whether there is a possibility for us to restart cooperation and to find who is really responsible for the tragedy.”

This article was posted on the Russia Today website at 8:59 p.m. on Friday evening Moscow time---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Sanctions and Airliners — Paul Craig Roberts

NOTE: Photos are now available of the wreckage from the Malaysian airliner crash. Notice the extensive debris and the large section of fuselage. You are observing remains of an airliner that was hit with a missile at 33,000 feet and fell to impact land. Remember, no such debris was present at the site where the airliner is alleged to have hit the Pentagon and at the alleged crash site in Pennsylvania of the 4th 9/11 hijacked airliner. Give that some thought. No doubt but that the 9/11 Commission will conclude that only Malaysian airliners leave debris.

The unilateral U.S. sanctions announced by Obama on July 16 blocking Russian weapons and energy companies access to U.S. bank loans demonstrate Washington’s impotence. The rest of the world, including America’s two largest business organizations, turned their backs on Obama. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers placed ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post protesting US sanctions. NAM said that the manufacturer’s association is “disappointed that the U.S. is extending sanctions in increasingly unilateral ways that will undermine U.S. commercial engagement.” Bloomberg reported that “meeting in Brussels, leaders of the European Union refused to match the U.S. measures.”

In attempting to isolate Russia, the White House Fool has isolated Washington.

The sanctions will have no effect on the Russian companies. The Russian companies can get more bank loans than they need from China, or from France and Germany.

The commentary by Paul was posted on this Internet site on Thursday---and falls into the  must read category, especially for all serious students of the New Great Game.  It's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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15 civilians killed and 53 injured in Lugansk shelling

At least 15 have been killed and 53 wounded as the city of Lugansk has come under shelling attack. The city’s center and civilian areas have been targeted leaving areas in ruins.

"Today intense bombardment of Lugansk has continued. Shells are falling in almost all districts of the city,” the administration said in a statement.

The Lisichansk Oil Refinery, property of the Russian oil company Rosneft - recently sanctioned by the U.S. - has also been attacked and set on fire.

This is another story from the Russia Today Internet site.  It was filed there at 11:10 a.m. Moscow time on their Friday morning---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens again.

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Berlusconi cleared of underage sex charges and abuse of office for cover-up

The flagging career of Italy's former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was given a dramatic boost on Friday after a court in Milan cleared him of both charges in a lurid trial that cemented his international reputation as an ageing playboy politician and made "bunga bunga" a household term.

More than 12 months after he was sentenced to seven years in prison and slapped with a lifetime ban on holding public office, Berlusconi was acquitted on appeal of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his office to cover it up.

Prosecutors will be able to launch another appeal against that ruling, but the judgment nonetheless marks a boost for the 77-year-old, who denied the charges and insists he is the victim of a personal vendetta by left wing Italian judges.

This story appeared on Internet site at 5:59 p.m. BST on Friday---and it's the final offering of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Football superstars donate their World Cup prize money

The World Cup may be over for Germany and Argentina, but players on both teams are putting their cash winnings to good use by donating them to worthy causes.

According to the U.K.-based Express, 25-year-old German football star Mesut Ozil has donated his World Cup prize money – totaling more than $400,000 for winning the tournament – to various charity projects in Brazil. The hefty sum is reportedly going to fund surgeries for 23 Brazilian children.

Ozil made the announcement official on his Facebook page, where he wrote the following:

“Dear fans, prior to the #WorldCup I supported the surgery of eleven sick children. Since the victory of the #WorldCup is not only due to eleven players but to our whole team, I will now raise the number to 23. This is my personal thank-you for the hospitality of the people of Brazil.”

This heart-warming article appeared on the Russia Today website at 2:34 a.m. Moscow time on their Friday morning---and I thank Harry Grant for sending it our way.

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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as "spoils of war". Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

This longish commentary by Patrick Cockburn showed up on the Internet site last Sunday BST---and for length and content reasons, had to wait for today's column.  I thank South African reader B.V. for sending it our way.

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The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control

William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.

On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations.

“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”

The NSA will soon be able to collect 966 exabytes a year, the total of internet traffic annually. Former Google head Eric Schmidt once argued that the entire amount of knowledge from the beginning of humankind until 2003 amount to only five exabytes.

This chilling article put in an appearance on Internet site on Friday, July 11---and I thank reader B.V. for sending it to me last Saturday.  For content reasons as well, it had to wait until this Saturday's column.

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Three King World News Blogs

1. Nigel Farage: "Terrifying Banking Crisis is About to Accelerate"  2. Gerald Celente: "The World is Now Headed into a Major War"  3. John Ing: "Legend Says China Will Buy 100 Tons of Gold Each Month"

[Please direct any questions or comments about what is said in these interviews by either Eric King or his guests to them, and not to me. Thank you. - Ed]

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Alasdair Macleod: BIS seems to be edging away from dollar and toward gold

A recent interview with the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, Jaime Caruana, suggests that the bank is edging away from Keynesianism, monetarism, and the U.S. dollar and becoming more partial to gold as the base of the international monetary order, GoldMoney research director Alasdair Macleod writes today.

"Even though central bankers in the political firing line only know expansionary monetary policies," Macleod writes, "it is clear that influential opinion in many quarters is building against them. It is too early to talk of a new monetary regime, but not too early to talk of the current one's demise."

Macleod's commentary is titled "Monetary Discord" and it was posted at the Internet site yesterday---and I found 'all of the above' over at the Internet site yesterday.

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Options expiration will help gold more than international turmoil, Sprott says

Sprott Asset Management CEO Eric Sprott, interviewed by Sprott Money News for their weekly market roundup, says he doesn't expect international turmoil to do much for gold, but economies are not recovering and he expects gold to do well after the price suppression connected to this month's futures options expiration.

The interview runs for 8:40 minutes---and can be heard at the Internet site.  I thank Chris Powell for wordsmithing the above paragraph of introduction.

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SNL points to drastic fall in new gold discoveries

SNL Metals & Mining is nowadays one of the sector’s leading suppliers of statistical information having, in recent years, absorbed the highly respected Metals Economics Group, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Australian headquartered Intierra, which itself had absorbed Sweden’s Raw Materials Group. Its latest major report is titled Strategies for Gold Reserves Replacement and points to some hugely significant data which will affect global newly mined gold production way into the future.

The report points out that over the past 24 years mining companies have discovered some 1.66 billion ounces of gold in 217 major discoveries, BUT – and it’s a big BUT – while this may sound a huge amount, over the same period the industry has actually produced 1.84 billion ounces of gold, so discoveries have not been keeping pace with production. But the report goes much further in showing that the number of significant discoveries (defined as deposits with a minimum of 2 million ounces of contained gold) is diminishing and this diminishing trend seems to be accelerating. In the 1990s some 124 deposits containing 1.1 billion ounces of gold were discovered while since the year 2000 this has fallen to only 605 million ounces in 93 such discovered deposits. And most recently significant new discoveries appear to have slowed to a trickle.

No surprises here for me.  This must read commentary by Lawrence Williams was posted on the Internet site yesterday.

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